Story and photos by FRED AFFLERBACH • Aerial photo by JOHN ANCHETA
Story by FRED AFFLERBACH
It’s a warm spring day at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin and a small crowd has gathered in a sun-drenched courtyard. Water trickles into a small pond lined with native ferns, rushes and lilies. A wind chime plays a soft lullaby. Someone has printed “shh” on a chalkboard. A hush falls across the curious visitors. Rather than looking down at bright bluebonnets, they are gazing upward toward a brown, sandstone archway.
These days there seems to be an emphasis on eating a healthy plant-based diet.
For almost 50 years, instructors at the Aviation Science department at Central Texas College in Killeen have been helping the careers and dreams of aspiring pilots take flight. Whether you’re looking to earn a certificate that permits you to fly a small, single-engine craft for fun, or aspire to make a career piloting large jets for major airlines, CTC can help those ambitions get off the ground.
Take a back roads adventure away from the reality of every day life and spend a romantic getaway with your sweetie at the Cabins at Angel Springs, in Georgetown. This hidden enclave sits on 10 acres, and getting to this four-cabin resort from Bell County means meandering through some of the most beautiful scenery in Central Texas.
The Hill Country town of Fredericksburg is captivating any time of the year, but its atmosphere is even more spectacular during the holiday season when glistening decorations and German influences enhance its charm.
Long lines at shopping malls. Traffic jams. Overflowing parking lots. You can bypass these holiday headaches and take a trip to an exotic land with intriguing music, food and dance that is only an hour drive from the Killeen-Temple Metroplex. Folks in Bosque County, population 18,000, celebrate the yuletide with small town charm and a Norwegian twist. Oh, and you can bring home a fresh-cut Christmas tree from a local farm. The day after Thanksgiving, the lights come on and the parades begin rolling down Main Street, so pack up the kids and take a short hop to enjoy some holiday traditions and festivities that you won’t find in any shopping mall.
You don’t have to be weird, or a live music fan, to enjoy a visit to Austin. And you don’t have to wear burnt orange attire and join the legions flocking to football, basketball and baseball games to have a good time in the Capitol City. That’s because Austin has a slew of museums that celebrate art, history and politics. Visitors eager to learn the story of Texas, from the first European explorers through the space age, should visit the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum. A short hop away, the LBJ Presidential Library brings to life a native son’s rise from his hardscrabble roots in the Hill Country to being sworn in as our 36th president aboard Air Force One only hours after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas in 1963. Other, smaller museums off the beaten path, enlighten and enrich your Austin adventure. For example, the oldest house still standing in Austin was built by a French diplomat in 1840, and today it’s the French Legation Museum. And you can visit the studio of a pioneering woman sculptor, Elisabet Ney, whose marble sculptures of Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin are on permanent display at the Texas Capitol and the U.S. Capitol.
Wildlife biologists, outdoor enthusiasts and bird watchers are singing a song of gratitude to the golden-cheeked warbler and black-capped vireo here in the Texas Hill Country. Conservation efforts to save these endangered migratory songbirds from extinction have resulted in hatching a 24,000-acre nature preserve west of Lago Vista, in western Travis County.
Our mothers rightly deserve the love and recognition Mother’s Day brings each May. During this annual homage to motherhood, let us not forget another mom and her role as matriarch of Texas State Parks. It’s time to visit Mother Neff. She’s dressed in assorted shades of green and welcomes you with open arms. Gaze into her starry eyes. Stay overnight, or a long weekend, and come away with renewed spirit and admiration for her history.
Before barbed wire, railroads and highways carved up Central Texas, prior to the overgrazing practices that diminished native plants and opened the path for invasive species to proliferate, back when native grasses blanketed the hills and valleys — an indigenous people thrived by living lightly on the land.
On an unseasonably warm, bright day in February, Jonathan Walker, a beekeeper at Walker Honey Farm, holds out an active, open bee hive for inspection with ungloved hands.
A Minnesota couple is eavesdropping on the president.